poland

Unique advantages

After years of stagnation and underinvestment spas are now experiencing a real revival. Visitors to health resorts are increasingly eager to combine health treatments with the opportunity to relax in attractive surroundings.

The patients and spa visitors are not the only ones to benefit from the resorts – local government authorities also receive funds from the health spas. The state budget also gains, as the rehabilitation costs and treatment in the resorts are cheaper than in hospitals.

Compared to the pre-war period, the number of health resorts in Poland has significantly declined. In the Second Polish Republic there were 240 health resorts. Now there are only 45. Anther 11 resorts have applied to receive a similar status – these include Czarny Dunajec, Latoszyn, Miłomłyn and Lidzbark Warmiński, which have already been approved as conservation area spas. Nonetheless, this number is still low when one considers that there are 350 health resorts in Germany.

Being granted the status of a health resort is a long and costly endeavour. Villages and municipalities wishing to provide spa treatments must meet a number of conditions, for example having documentation for medicinal waters.  Then one has to build a health treatment infrastructure for visiting patients. However, it pays off to make these investments as they often bring with them a lot of advantages.

Pure benefits

The overwhelming majority of patients in Polish health resorts are so-called contract clients, whose costs are covered by the National Health Fund or the Social Insurance Institution (ZUS). As a result, treatment for sick people at health resorts is not expensive.

Moreover, the residents of spa towns generally have a favourable view regarding the impact of the spa on the development of their community. Above all, the resorts create new jobs, in particular for those with an educational background in general medicine. The potential benefits associated with being granted the health resort status usually outweighs the fear of the need to limit economic activity, for example as a result of more stringent standards for land development and noise or dust concentrations in the air.

Patients queuing up

An increasing number of people are interested in visiting and being treated at health resorts. However, those whose stay is covered by the National Health Fund need to wait between a few months to over a year. This is in contrast to patients who are not senior citizens and who were recommended treatment by ZUS. In this case, the waiting period is shortened to several weeks.

ZUS returns travel expenses and covers the full cost for 24 days for employed patients who are threatened by a long-term inability to work but who have a good chance of returning to their workplace.  This time period can be extended to 48 days with special approval.  “In the case of patients sent to us by the National Health Fund, they don’t have to pay any extra cost for their stay or accommodation. The only extra fee of 15-25 zl daily is charged visits to the sanatorium. This is something that is still not widely known,” says Jadwiga Kawwa.

The future of health resorts

A long-standing problem with health resorts in Poland continues to be their funding. Will it be possible to find additional funds which can be used to fund treatment in health resorts?

“The National Health Fund should safeguard funds at a minimum of 1.4-1.6% of its expenditure. The policy of the government and municipalities should serve to further the development of resorts which focus on ensuring that the treatments provided are effective and significantly cheaper than hospital treatment,” says Zdzislaw Skwarek, the Chairman of the National Section of Polish Health Resorts linked to the NSZZ "Solidarity" union.

Long waiting lists for a place in spa towns point to the high demand for their services in our country. But are Polish spas not at a disadvantage when competing against their foreign counterparts?

“Poland has unique medicinal waters, mineral waters, now also thermal and mud baths, which are the greatest asset of our spas. Polish spas are safe and have a long tradition. They are investing in their infrastructure with an eye on commercial clients, providing comprehensive services,” says Zdzislaw Skwarek. The large part of Polish and European society goes to health resorts at some point in their life, not only for relaxation but also for treatment.  This applies to the elderly but also to people who have an active professional life and want to look after their health and physique while relaxing in health surroundings. “That is why health resorts have a bright future ahead of them and a good development perspective,” Skwarek says.

According to Skwarek, health resorts in Poland should systematically grow in number. “There is growing demand for complex rehabilitation as well as natural treatment methods. Society wants to remain professionally active for a long time so it looks for effective regeneration methods and relaxation opportunities at resorts,” he said.

PIOTR TOMCZYK

Source: Nasz Dziennik

10.08.2016